Wednesday, October 22, 2014

…ascending flesh and bone: SERPENT VENOM – ‘Of Things Seen & Unseen’

Serpent Venom’s excellent debut, ‘Carnal Altar’, was a thing of beauty. It was impossibly heavy without completely sacrificing melody. It was often oppressively dark, though given to occasional glimpses of light and, for the most part, it effectively balanced a sluggish crawl with mid-tempo groove. Fast forward three years and not only has Serpent Venom released an admirable follow-up to ‘Carnal Altar’, but they have released one of the finest albums of the year.

‘Of Things Seen & Unseen’ has been highly anticipated here at V.C.A., but this anticipation was also coupled with trepidation due to the departure of guitarist/Hammond organ player Pete Fox. Though the brief atmospheric use of organ is sorely missed on ‘Of Things Seen & Unseen’, the greater worry revolved around the riffs. What would Serpent Venom sound like with soaring heartfelt vocals and a tight, heavy-as-Hell rhythm section…but no riffs? Well, fortunately, that question is a moot point. Roland Scriver does a more than capable job of filling the void. ‘Of Things Seen & Unseen’ is almost a continuation of where the band left off with ‘Carnal Altar’ and is, in many respects, an overall heavier album.

‘Carnal Altar’ beget a handful of stone cold classic tunes with the self-titled lead-off track—the slow build of organ coupled with Sutherland’s intensifying drums and the main riff crashing in kills me every time—“For Walls of Solitude”, a tune that epitomizes doom metal, and the groovy up-tempo swing of “Devilshire”. ‘Carnal Altar’ captured a unique, crypt-like atmosphere that was imprinted on every single tune, a feat that has somewhat eluded ‘Of Things Seen & Unseen’. Despite a shift in atmospheric balance the band’s sophomore effort compensates with a combination of heft and traces of psychedelia that were only hinted at on the debut.

‘Of Things Seen & Unseen’ is a fantastic follow-up to one of Vertical Chamber Apparatus’s favorite albums. Fans of traditional doom, particularly the heavier side of the spectrum, should have no problems gravitating toward ‘Of Thing Seen & Unseen’. Serpent Venom is the total package—great vocals and vocal melodies, weighty bass lines, a drummer who adds depth and propulsion to the tunes and last, but not least, heavy-as-fuck riffs that become embedded in your skull.


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